By Matt Lefebvre

This post is a continuation of the teleological argument. Please see Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6 if you have not read them yet.

To read along with audio for this article, click here Teleo-Part7

3. Therefore, it is due to design

“The impression of design is overwhelming.” (Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint, p.203)

“The Strong Anthropic [to do with humans] Principle…has strong teleological overtones.  It suggests that ‘observers’ must play a key role in (if not be the goal of) the evolution of the Universe.  This type of notion was extensively discussed in past centuries and was bound up with the question of evidence for a Deity.” (Barrow and Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p.28).

“Cosmology is one of the most fascinating areas of the natural sciences, not least on account of the philosophical and theological questions that arise from its speculations.” (McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.111).

Many scientists and philosophers have attested to the existence of design in the cosmos, whether they claim to know the identity of the designer or not.  Some even come to change their views from being hostile to the idea of design to embracing it as the best explanation of what can be seen from the universe.  However, others seem entrenched against even including design as a possibility of explaining why the universe is the way it is.  In this last section, I intend to offer an explanation as to why that might be and integrally connected with that, why I think that should not be the case.

John Lennox illustrates a common attitude within the scientific community.  After mentioning that we should be thankful for the advances of science, he offers an explanation of a negative development in science.  “But in some quarters the very success of science has also led to the idea that, because we can understand the mechanisms of the universe without bringing in God, we can safely conclude that there was no God who designed and created the universe in the first place.” (God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, p.44).  He then proceeds to offer an illustration in which the existence of Mr. (Henry) Ford, who made cars, was not undermined when a person discovered how the car worked.  Alister McGrath also brings attention to this aspect of the scientific method in exposing certain metaphysical preconceptions that are allowed to assume a controlling role in some scientists.

“An empirical scientific method will always seek to inquire about natural causes; only a nonempirical metaphysical naturalism will insist that they can always be found.  As might be expected, the discussion of the origins of the universe has been intensely controversial precisely because of the challenges or reinforcements that it is seen to offer various metaphysical positions, whether theistic or atheistic.” (A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.112).

As I stated above, there are basically three causal explanations we can offer: chance, necessity, design (or some combination of them).  However, in terms of the teleological argument for God’s existence, as soon as design is claimed as a scientific explanation, red-flags start going up among some scientists.  However, this is merely a bad connotation of the word “design”, thinking that it undermines science in some way.  However, when theistic implications are removed from a situation, all of a sudden design is a viable option again.  Thinking about tossing a coin 100 times again, suppose we decided to do a little gambling and I said that if it is tails, you win, and if it is heads, I win.  Each bet would be the same; say 10 dollars a toss.  Well, what would you think if I won every single one of the 100 coin tosses, and as a result, won $1000 from you?  Would you think that there was some law that demanded that the coin land in my favour?  Would you think that by chance the coin landed heads up 100 times in a row?  Would you think that in the multiverse, such an event was bound to happen somewhere, so why not here?  I hope not, because that kind of thinking could cost you a lot of money.  I suggest that it would not even have to be 100, but after about 10 rounds, you would start to get suspicious.  Under the circumstances, I think you would be rational to ask to examine the coin to see if I was cheating, or at least use a coin of your own, or ask to instead call heads.  In such a situation, even if you did not know how, you would assume that I had designed the game so that I would win.  It could be a weighted coin, or a two sided coin, but you do not even need to know that to understand that something is not right.  Through this, we can clearly see that design is a perfectly good explanation for events in the universe.  I have a mind and I can do things such as write articles, play football, or flip coins, even influencing such events.  We see design all the time and it is no less scientific than necessity or chance, so it is not to be excluded by definition in the area of fine-tuning.

Examples of detecting design abound, and Gonzalez and Richards offer some helpful ones.  When people in Britain saw Stonehenge, they knew that someone had built it, even if they had no idea who or why.  In looking at even this very simple pattern, it was clear that these stones had not simply rolled down a hill and by chance just ended up on top of each other in similar formation.  If there was some law that put them together, we have not found it yet.  No, the simplest explanation of this is that it was designed.  More significantly, SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is looking for radio signals from other forms of life in our universe, so presumably, they have criteria by which to identify intentionally ordered signals as opposed to random signals or repetitive signals.  Though their search is based on the assumption that we are not special in the universe (and perhaps not designed by implication), their methods of design detection testify indirectly to the fact that if there were to be design in the universe, we would have a way of distinguishing it from other causes.  To return once more to the firing squad analogy, I think it is implausible to think that when the 100 marksmen miss, it is the result of either necessity or chance.  Though it cannot be totally eliminated as an explanation, I would rather pursue what best explains the facts.  So, 100 marksmen, who have been trained for the purpose of hitting their target, aim at your heart, and await the command to fire.  The commander gives this command and all 100 guns go off, but surprisingly, you find that you are still alive.  I propose that the best explanation of such a situation would be that this was done on purpose.  Even if you do not know what that purpose is, I still think you would still be justified in inferring design.  If one marksman missed and 99 hit you, that would not need as much explanation, but the fact that all missed suggests that they intended to do so.  When I consider the fine-tuning of the universe, I feel that the situation is the same.  Though so many things could have gone wrong for the existence of life, they obviously did not.  In the way the universe is, I see a pattern.  At every step where I see an opportunity for chance to have rubbed out any possibility for life, instead, just the right path was chosen.  In fact, some have likened this to the story of Goldilocks, who went into the bears’ house.  She tried the papa bear’s porridge, but it was too hot.  She tried the mama bear’s porridge, but it was too cold.  Then coming to the baby bear’s porridge, it was just right.  The same thing happened with the chairs and the beds.  Well, in the case of the universe, it is not just a matter of taste, but a matter of life, and in so many aspects of the universe, it seems as though the universe was somehow prepared with us in mind.  That does not mean it has to be designed, but I am suggesting that this is the best explanation.  The universe does not simply exhibit highly improbable occurrences, but occurrences that are compatible with life, and thus, the universe itself is an example of specified complexity, demanding explanation.

So I hold that the universe shows us that there is a purpose and meaning to our existence; it did not happen by accident and it did not have to happen.  In order to see this design, I do not think we need to adapt to some new way of thinking, but to simply recognize the design for what it is.  For the power of design is very evident in the reactions of those most fundamentally opposed to the idea.  Del Ratzsch offers some helpful considerations in this respect.

“If design beliefs were founded on mere problematic inferences, or if their force arose merely from religious convictions, then we might not expect beliefs concerning design in nature to exert a very substantial tug on, for example, biologists – especially those not sympathetic to religion.  That is not quite what we find.  Even professional biologists seem to have an almost innate tendency to see biological systems in design terms.  Thus, Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA (and no great fan of religion): Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” (In God and Design, p.135).

To balance things out, I will also quote Alister McGrath, who himself believes in evolution, like Crick, but differs on the implications, for McGrath believes that evolution was the means by which God brought about life on Earth.  To give the context, he has discussed how people were critical of design after Darwin, but here is what he has to say to the Darwinists who extrapolate to the fact that there can be no design in the universe.

“Yet it has to be asked whether some Darwinists are indulging in precisely the same kind of metaphysical speculation, or allowing themselves to be trapped by the same (often unacknowledged) a priori metaphysical commitments that they identify in those affirming teleological approaches to biology.” (A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.185).

Furthermore, McGrath goes on to commend the progress of science in an open-minded context.  “A growing willingness on the part of empirical, nondogmatic scientists to consider the metaphysical and religious implications of the scientific enterprise has created new and exciting conceptual possibilities.” (A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.221).  If the universe is all there is, then there can be no other explanations, so the scientist is committed to natural explanation.  However, how does natural explanation explain itself?  If a person who is devoted to science really has an open mind to consider that God may be responsible for the fact that we live in a universe that is not hostile to our existence, then they have more freedom to consider the possibilities of what might be true than a scientist committed to naturalism.  While neither I, nor any of the authors I have been quoting, think that this argument alone proves that there is a God in a theistic sense, the suggestion is that design is the best explanation of why the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life, which cries out for some form of extremely powerful and supremely intelligent being.  William Whewell gave a great visual that sums up what the design argument intends to do when he wrote, “The facts are known but they are insulated and unconnected…The pearls are there but they will not hang together until some one provides the string.” (Quoted in A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.220).


I wish to sum up the teleological argument for God’s existence by giving perspective on what I have tried to do in writing this argument.  I do not think I have just proved that God must have designed the universe through this argument, but that this argument provides added support to the cumulative case for God’s existence.  In light of the cosmological argument, it would make sense that if God brought the universe into existence out of nothing, He could make it in a purposeful way, thinking about the existence of us in the process.  I have argued that we see that in the way the universe is, design is the best explanation, and that alternate explanations are inadequate, but some may still put their hope in possibility instead of plausibility.  “In fact, no amount of evidence for apparent design could ever count as evidence of actual design.  But if science is a search for the best explanation, based on the actual evidence from the physical world, rather than merely a search for the best naturalistic or impersonal explanations of the physical world, how responsible is it to adopt a principle that makes one incapable of seeing an entire class of evidence?” (The Privileged Planet, p.270).  I realize that many still hold to different conclusions based on the scientific evidence, as Paul Davies acknowledges.  “Now some of my colleagues embrace the same scientific facts as I, but deny any deeper significance.” (In God and Design, p.152).  However, I would hope that what I have offered here in this article is at least reason enough to give the design hypothesis a place above the competing hypotheses, if not reason to convince you of the existence of God.

The Cosmological Argument

The Moral Argument

The Argument from Jesus’ Resurrection


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s